We can help people change their decisions and habits in ways that empower and delight them.
We combine the findings of behavioral economics, mobile clinical interventions, persuasion design, direct marketing, CRM, and decades of A/B split testing and optimizations into an integrated practice of behavior change marketing.
This video of our Chief recapping his time at the Yale Behavioral Economics Intensive dives into the topic in greater detail:
Want to learn even more about Behavior Change Marketing? These articles are a great place to start:
If you and your team are trying to build an inspiring action brand, or know anyone else who may find this helpful, feel free to share this amongst them. If you want to join the conversation yourself, reach out to us on twitter, we’d love to hear from you.
We became friendly with a chief marketer who had found some success selling consumer packaged goods, sweet and salty snacks.
One of our creative leaders had worked with him on a candy brand.
The marketer had just left the giant packaged goods company to follow his CMO to a different kind of organization – a behavior change marketing company.
Except, this company didn’t understand that they were in the behavior change marketing business.
All the senior leaders came from either private equity or packaged goods. Yet this company had a mission to help people improve their wellness. It did so through memberships and subscriptions with a heavy component of education and community.
This was not the mere awareness and preference building of the packaged goods world. This was the long road. This was behavior change. This was building new habits that would require commitment, resilience, and ongoing effort.
We told our friend exactly this.
“You’re playing a whole new game now. And this game is different. It’s behavior change marketing. That means recruiting members, selling subscriptions, building relationships, smoothing out gaps, drags, and blocks in the membership experience, building a rich and compelling experience, designing for encouragement and persuasion at each stage, building an encouraging, safe and secure community. You’re playing the long game now.”
He listened politely and then said, “I think you’re right, but I’m new here. My boss has a plan. Let’s see how it goes.”
A year later, after a failed campaign and selling season, his boss was fired. We got the call.
“The game plan you were telling me about… I need that now. And I don’t have much time to show some success.”
We got to work together and put in twelve quarters of record revenue growth before he left to take the CMO job at another company where his now proven behavior change marketing chops would be highly valued.
We can help great marketers become successful behavior change marketers. CEOs and Investors often bring us in or recommend us for exactly this purpose. When marketers are new to behavior change, their agency contacts aren’t truly knowledgeable about the full range of behavior change marketing skills.
Most agency experience is still packaged goods experience. Other agencies are specialized in other areas and, frankly, insufficient thought is typically given to differences in business models. Shallow strategic thinking about awareness and preference may be appropriate for driving decisions between adjacent cans of soup on a grocery store shelf. Still, this level of thinking is wildly inappropriate when misapplied to behavior change.
Behavior change must be taken in steps. It is a series of actions. Actions are the result of motivation and ease coming together at the same time. The brand can help drive motivation, while design informed by behavioral science can reduce friction and complexity.
Solving the wrong behavior problem at the wrong time is too common. In the true story I told at the top of this post, the failed campaign aimed to recruit new members but focused on a promise to help them through the challenging times down the road.
After that decision, nothing else really mattered. The wonderful creativity of the agency people who worked on the campaign didn’t matter. The amazing production values and gorgeous editing of the spots didn’t matter.
The brilliant integration across platforms, digital and traditional advertising didn’t. The excellent media planning and buying only served to spread the fatal message virus. The wonderful public relations program only ensured that failure would be a famous one.
Because the advertising wasn’t working as intended. It was actually undermining recruitment. The result of the campaign was that recruitment declined significantly. The campaign ran for less than two months. They killed it on the same day they ended the CMO’s employment. It never had to be that way.
If you are in the business of helping people make better decisions or form more empowering habits, you are in the business of behavior change. Whether healthier, wealthier, wiser, kinder, saner, calmer, less anxious, better for the planet, happier, fitter, more resilient, a better citizen, better educated, or even just better entertained, if you are helping people to become better versions of themselves, you are in the business of behavior change.
If you are disrupting a category, you ask people to make a different decision and build a different habit. You are in the business of behavior change. If you are working at a non-profit trying to scale positive impact, you are in the business of behavior change.
And behavior change is different. Marketing, branding, advertising, design, content, and community building for behavior change are different.
Assembling a team to tackle these challenges is different too. But when you work with the right team, you can achieve amazing and important things.
Behavior change is different. Advertising for behavior change is different. This difference matters because the quality of people’s lives hangs in the balance.
Warby Parker sells a behavior change – a different way to buy eyeglasses.
Peloton Interactive doesn’t sell an exercise bike.
Peloton sells a behavior change – a way to make sure you exercise and keep exercising, no excuses.
Airbnb doesn’t sell rooms and apartments.
Airbnb sells a behavior change – a different way to travel.
Uber doesn’t sell rides.
Uber sells behavior change – a different way to get from here to there and a different way to earn a living too.
Dollar Shave Club doesn’t sell razors.
Dollar shave club sells a behavior change – a different way to buy razors.
HelloFresh doesn’t sell meal kits.
HelloFresh sells a behavior change – a way to make home cooking fit modern life.
Sun Basket doesn’t sell meal kits.
SunBasket sells a behavior change – a way to cook Paleo or Whole30 or Vegan…
Stitch Fix doesn’t sell clothes.
StitchFix sells behavior change – a totally different way to get yourself dressed.
If you’re in the direct-to-consumer business, you’re a behavior change marketer. Period.
Your customer doesn’t choose you to get something.
Your customer chooses you to change something.
You are in behavior change marketing.
Branding for behavior change is different.
Designing for behavior change is different.
Content for behavior change is different.
Advertising for behavior change is different.
Marketing for behavior change is different.
Learn more about behavior change marketing here. It’s free. No funnel.
People talk a lot about KPI’s – Key Performance Indicators. They use various words to talk about them.
“What are your KPI’s?”
“What are your key metrics?”
“Do you have numbers you must hit?”
Merely accepting the first answer is a mistake. Remember, your aim at this point is to be a master appreciator. From great appreciation comes great inspiration.
Do not do what most people do. Do not merely accept the KPI’s, dutifully write them down to show you’re paying attention, and then move on to other things.
Instead, continue to drill in with questions in a Socratic attempt to appreciate why these are the KPIs.
When you understand why these are the KPIs, you will have built a mental model that allows you to think and imagine outcomes just as a CEO, board member or key investor in the company does.
If you understand why the KPIs are the KPIs, then you will be able to see change coming to those factors that affect success for the business. You will also be able to question the KPIs and help the client focus on the Performance Indicators that are truly Key.
For example, we worked for many years with an electronic broker. We asked the question, “What key measures drive the creation of value in the company? What key measures drive growth?”
After some discussion we got to three:
Increasing the total number of active clients. Increasing client trading activity Increasing the total number of assets in accounts. After some discussion, we decided that only the first two measures – the number of clients and their level of trading activity – were important drivers of value at that time. The reason for this was that interest rates were very low and therefore deposits were not a significant source of revenues, profits or business value.
Fortified with this appreciation of the drivers of growth in the value of this business, we were able to confidently move on to our next steps in generating that growth – asking and answering the question:
What key actions or behaviors drive those KPIs?
The KPI “increasing the number of total clients” was driven mostly by increases in the numbers of new funded accounts.
So, the behavior that would drive growth in this KPI was, “More customers opening new accounts and funding them.”
This was wonderfully focusing.
Increasing client trading activity was the second key driver of growth. Whereas in other categories, marketers are focused on increasing revenue per customer – for example, people who run shoe stores want to sell more pairs of shoes per customer and people who run e-commerce sites want to increase the average cart size – retail brokers had remained focused on acquiring new customers.
There were exceptions. We helped Tom Sosnoff, Lee Barba, Ainslee Simmonds and Lee McAdoo build thinkorswim (now part of TD Ameritrade) from a small and interesting digital options broker to a powerhouse with the industry’s most valuable customers.
Sosnoff, a savvy trader, was an even savvier entrepreneur, a born teacher and a natural movement leader. In short, he made options trading cool and never played down the risk or danger. This got thinkorswim to the summit base camp from which it would begin an even more rapid ascent.
Options traders trade a lot and pay well for their trades. When thinkorswim merged with Investools – a pioneer and leader in the online education space – they immediately had a way to dramatically scale the creation of new options traders.
People paid good money to Investools to teach them how to trade options. In exchange, Investools helped them to transform themselves into active options traders. Investools needed a platform for these student traders to trade on. It would have to offer simulated trading as well as real live trading.
Thinkorswim fit the bill perfectly.
Now, Investools students would learn to trade on the thinkorswim platform.
In addition, Investools substantial graduate list of tens of thousands of active options traders became available to thinkorswim for remarketing. Half of those former students became thinkorswim clients.
Next, thinkorswim began to integrate Investools training into its platform and customer service offerings. This increased trading volume and dramatically grew the value of the business.
The key insight here: new trading concepts and ideas lead to more trades.
We would mine this insight for our new client and take it even further, programming trade ideas into software apps that could also execute the trades.
Since our key driver of grow was increased trading volume, which we thought of as increased volume per client, the behavior that would drive this growth was defined as “one more trade per customer per month.”
This would make a real difference in the value of the business, and it was just a start. Just trading volume summit base camp, a milestone on our way to the top.
Since the behavior was “the client makes one more trade per month” we went to work to address the blocks to that behavior. Our clients were already more active than nearly all the other retail brokerage clients in the industry. But, what kept them from being even more active?
Remember that if you want to increase a behavior, you need to combine motivation and ease in the same moment – (MxE)Same Moment = Behavior.
We spent thousands of hours watching traders trade. We got to know their multi-screen set-ups and the joys – and sometimes intimacy avoidance – of their basement trading lairs. We interviewed scores of them and the interviews were so compelling that we edited several of the audio recordings and paired them with animation to create authentic and effective tv commercials and digital videos.
The motivation was there. They wanted to trade more. In front of their screen was the moment. They only lacked the ideas, they told us.
All the time that wasn’t spent trading was spent trolling for ideas. They loved the trading. The trolling for ideas was the hard work that made the trading possible.
More ideas, delivered in the moment they are in front of their screens, made as easy as possible to understand and execute, would unlock the behavior we were looking for.
Trading ideas, programmed and ready to download and execute like apps on a mobile device, did the trick.
Traders reported being more satisfied and improved their performance. We got our one more trade per client per month and that was just the beginning of the growth in trading volume.
As a master change agent, you’ll bring the much-needed clarity to each situation. You’ll walk into rooms where everything seems important and the list of things to be solved is as long a Vaynerchuk’s YouTube feed.
And you’ll go right to the essentials.
What measures most affect growth? What behaviors drive those measures? With those questions asked and answered, you’ll get down to work.
How do we make those behaviors motivating and easy (in the same moment)? You are well on your way to building your Theory of Change. The next steps help you prioritize and focus still further.
The ‘Hedgehog Concept’ dates back to antiquity, to a philosopher-poet named Archilochus.
His idea still has power to move us today because he told it in the form of a simple story, the story of the Fox and the Hedgehog.
In nature, a Fox is clever, whereas a Hedgehog is well-fed. A Fox’s brain gets bored easily and seeks new problems to solve. The Fox has so many ideas he often forgets which ones are his best and most useful.
The Fox tries everything in its quest to catch and eat the hedgehog.
The Hedgehog has one idea, and he’s learned to execute it perfectly – he just rolls himself into a perfect, prickly ball, and the Fox goes hungry every time.
Because the Hedgehog has a single defining idea, she just gets better and better at working that idea.
In life, business and cartoons, hedgehogs beat foxes every day. Wile E. Coyote is a Fox. He is forever inventing new “business models” to capture the Roadrunner. Roadrunner is a Hedgehog. Roadrunner’s Hedgehog Concept is FASTER. This just happens to be the same one that has driven FedEx and Google’s success for decades.
I first met this idea not in the study of Greek philosophy, but in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.
Collins studied companies that had taken their results from good to great. Without bias, he and his team set out to learn how. A key factor in these good-to-great stories was the finding a “Hedgehog Concept.”
Collins said that this hedgehog concept lay at the intersection of, “What you have enthusiasm for,” “What drives your economic engine” and “What you can be best in the world at.”
I took Collins’ invitation to find our hedgehog to heart. But, how does the Fox develop a Hedgehog concept? And how does the leader of an unruly skulk of Foxes – creative, strategic, analytical, artistic, entrepreneurial, multi-faceted, idea machines – establish a Hedgehog Concept culture?
I knew we had a passion for the intersection of entrepreneurship, creativity and personal growth – Growth. And, we shared a passion for working with and learning from the best.
Secondly, we took the word “agency” seriously, even if the rest of the world didn’t.
To us, being an “agent” means putting the client’s success first, being “unconflicted” – having zero conflicts of interest – and limiting distractions. I believed that an agency must take fiduciary responsibility for the client’s success.
So, it was clear that our economic engine would be fueled by client success and only by client success. That translated to fees and bonuses based on achieving milestones.
Because of our commitment to aligning with the client, from CEO on down, we knew we needed an integrated offering, bringing together brand and performance. Clients were increasingly lonely with the responsibility for integrated brand-building and revenue-generating – brand and performance – as agencies focused on micro-specializations.
So, the typical specialization couldn’t be our Hedgehog. We couldn’t just do digital or brand design or creative or media.
We stepped back to observe ourselves solving problems. Whether launching, relaunching and turning around a brand and business, we noticed that we do in fact have a single, all-powerful strategy, a single defining idea.
The Hedgehog views the world through the lens of a single defining idea, overarching goal, belief, or ethos that informs, colors and exemplifies all that they do.
For us that idea is Inspiring Action, and we’ve built it into a powerful, predictable process for accelerating growth.
All Growth is Behavior Change
Inspiring action starts with a core truth, that no growth in life or business is possible without behavior change. When we approach a business problem, we first look at the key drivers of value in the business. What levers move business value? What gears accelerate growth?
All value creation is the result of behaviors, value-driving actions. For example, for many years we worked with an electronic broker, during which time we increased the efficiency of marketing by over ten times.
Analyzing the creation of value in the business, we noted three key levers: new funded accounts, more trading activity and increased balances.
In a low-interest environment, balances didn’t add much value to the company. We needed new accounts from active traders and a higher share of trading from our current customer.
In short, we needed to get more active traders to choose us, to fund their accounts and to trade more often with us – all value-driving behaviors.
Behavior Change is Inspiring Action
Optimal behavior change comes from a synergy of brand and performance.
Performance marketing alone is less efficient in the short run and damaging in the long run.
Inspiring = Motivated
Behavior is most likely to change – action is most likely to be taken – when motivation, ease and a trigger all happen at the same time (B.J. Fogg).
An inspiring brand organizes motivation, motivating the first value-driving action, while setting up the motivation for subsequent actions.
Inspiration is a function of the brand idea – does it connect and motivate, does it create a powerful lift?
Action = Ease
Action = Ease (simplicity, presence, lack of friction, plus a trigger – all at the same time).
In each case, we analyze the prospect and customer journey, looking for blocks, gaps and drags affecting value-driving actions. We prioritize those gaps and address them one by one, unlocking growth, marketing efficiency and customer value.
Yes, we can be fox-like in solving these problems, but the fact that we have a single problem that we solve – the problem of brand and business growth – and single, powerful way of solving that problem – Inspiring Action – means that we keep getting better and better.
So that’s why “Inspiring Action” is so much more than a “tagline” for us – it’s truly our hedgehog concept.
What’s your Hedgehog? Where do you stand with it? I’d love to hear from you.
The problems that the world faces can only be solved with Behavior Change marketing and design. Growth and business success are behavior change marketing problems.
Growth problems can only be solved by behavioral solutions.
The process of behavior change marketing is simple. Determine the key performance indicators that support the growth theory for the business. Identify the behaviors that lead to those KPIs. Analyze the key behaviors along the customer journey, identifying gaps, drags and blocks.
Prioritize your design interventions. Describe the experience that will most likely transform behavior into habit for this brand.
Create experiences that will inspire action, informed by the vast store of behavioral science outcomes and deep direct response and interactive design testing experience.
Relentlessly test and optimize.
Grow a business. Build a brand. Change the world.
Let’s go, Behavior Change Marketer!
Learn more about Behavior Change Marketing by signing up for The Change Agent’s Cookbook for 2019: http://ow.ly/f1ms30nm1BL
The year 2017 was the year of behavior change marketing. Here is our list of marketers who changed our behaviors for good, for bad, and maybe forever. If there are any brands you think deserve to be added to the list, tweet us here and let us know!
People pay us to get people to do things.
And we’re really good at it.
It’s an awesome responsibility.
Changing people’s behavior.
Their decisions and habits.
That’s why we’re not a “performance marketing” agency. Or a “digital” agency. Or a “direct” agency.
That’s why we’re an Inspiring Action agency.
That’s why we only incite more inspiring actions.
And more empowering habits.
And why we use our powers to ignite growth only in organizations that promote those kinds of behaviors.
But responsibility isn’t the only reason.
People bet their careers on our results every day.
We have learned by long experience that inspiring action simply works better.
We learned by being in big, siloed agencies that undermined our results by separating us.
We learned by proving it through results.
That the two most important factors for igniting growth are Inspiration and Action.
Inspiration – is there an idea or experience at the core of the brand that inspires unreasonable passion.
Action – is there urgency and ease and flow and momentum in the funnel of actions that create even deeper engagement and customer value.
Inspiring Action ignites growth by changing behaviors. Each one of us made an inspiring decision to come together.
To use what we’ve learned to inspire action for worthy organizations.